Ann Arbor city council meeting (Dec. 16, 2013): The city council’s last regular meeting of 2013 pushed well past midnight. And toward the end of the meeting, councilmembers batted around the idea of asking the city clerk to enforce the council’s rule limiting councilmember speaking time. It’s an issue that will be taken up by the council’s rules committee.
In some of its more significant business of the night, the council voted unanimously to deposit almost $1.4 million into the city of Ann Arbor’s affordable housing trust fund. The council’s final vote was unanimous, although Jane Lumm (Ward 2) offered an amendment to cut that amount in half, which failed on a 2-9 vote. Jack Eaton (Ward 4) joined Lumm in supporting that failed amendment.
The dollar figure of $1,384,300 million reflects the $1.75 million in gross proceeds, less brokerage fees and seller’s costs, from the sale of a downtown city-owned parcel known as the old Y lot. In 2003, the city paid $3.5 million for the property, located on William Street between Fourth and Fifth avenues. The council approved the sale of the property to Dennis Dahlmann for $5.25 million at its Nov. 18, 2013 meeting. The city has made interest-only payments on a $3.5 million loan for the last 10 years.
Public commentary during the meeting was dominated by residents advocating in support of the Y lot resolution – several on behalf of the homeless community. A current point of contention for several of the speakers is the fact that the Delonis Shelter does not operate a warming center during daytime hours. Instead, the center allows the homeless to seek refuge there during the day when the temperature or wind chill drops to 10 F degrees. Addressing that issue is one of several possible ways to spend the money from the affordable housing trust fund. Others include using it to renovate properties managed by the Ann Arbor housing commission.
Two items in which the council also invested considerable time at its Dec. 16 meeting involved traffic safety. The council wound up adopting unanimously a resolution that directs city administrator Steve Powers to present a strategy for funding elements of the city’s non-motorized transportation plan, by specific dates starting next year. The final version adopted by the council reflected a compromise on the exact wording of the resolution – which among other changes eliminated explicit mention of any specific technology. The original resolution had specifically cited rectangular rapid flashing beacons (RRFBs), as does the non-motorized plan.
Thematically related to the funding plan for non-motorized transportation improvements was a proposal to allocate $125,000 from the current general fund reserve to pay for police overtime for traffic enforcement. The debate on police overtime centered on the question of whether chief of police John Seto had a plan to spend the money, which equates to about 70 additional hours a week for the remaining six months of the fiscal year, which ends June 30, 2014. The resolution eventually won the support of all members of the council except for mayor John Hieftje.
The police overtime item was sponsored by Stephen Kunselman (Ward 3), Jack Eaton (Ward 4) and Jane Lumm (Ward 2), who were part of a six-vote majority that had backed a significant revision to the city’s crosswalk law at the council’s Dec. 2, 2013 meeting. That change – which eliminated a requirement that motorists stop for pedestrians who were at the curb but not within the crosswalk – was subsequently vetoed by Hieftje. The text of that veto was attached to the council’s Dec. 16 meeting agenda as a communication.
The council’s focus on traffic and pedestrian safety will continue next year, on Jan. 6, when the council is supposed to make appointments to a pedestrian safety task force, which it established at its Nov. 18, 2013 meeting.
Also generally related to the public right-of-way on streets at the council’s Dec. 16 meeting was an item that was postponed from the Dec. 2, 2013 meeting. The council was asked to consider assigning a specific cost to the removal of an on-street parking space caused by a development: $45,000. The original postponement stemmed from a desire to hold a public hearing on the matter before taking action. One person spoke at the public hearing on Dec. 16, and the council deliberated about a half hour before deciding to postpone again.
The council voted unanimously to make a roughly $65,000 allocation from the solid waste fund balance to pay for an initiative that will allow residents to add plate scrapings to their brown compost carts for curbside collection. The additional funds will cover an increased level of service at the compost processing facility – daily versus weekly grinding. The funds will also cover the cost of counter-top containers the city plans to give away to residents to encourage the initial separation of plate scrapings from garbage, and a subsidy for the sale of additional brown compost carts. Some of that allocation is expected to be recovered through reduced landfill tipping fees.
Also on Dec. 16, the council accepted a $50,000 grant from the USDA Forestry Service to be spent on a tree pruning initiative focused on the city’s largest street trees.
The council metered out its time generously on items involving large and small dollar amount alike at its Dec. 16 meeting. So nearly a half hour of deliberations went into a resolution that directed the city administrator to include $10,000 of support for the Ann Arbor Street Art Fair as he develops next year’s (FY 2015) budget. The council voted unanimously to support that resolution.
The council postponed an item that formally terminated a four-year-old memorandum of understanding with the University of Michigan on the demised Fuller Road Station project. It had been added to the agenda the same day as the meeting, and that was the reason it was postponed. However, it was clear from remarks at the meeting that when the council takes up the resolution next year, it will have support.